There’s something truly special about local theater. Ask anyone who has either sat in an audience or appeared on a community stage and they’ll tell you it’s an experience like no other.
82nd Street Theatre, a ministry of Abundant Life Community Church, is no different, as leaders busily prepare for their 40th show, “Mary Poppins, Jr.,” featuring a cast of more than 50 children and young people, ranging in age from grade school to college-aged students. The production runs March 14-16 at the church, located at 10143 Royalton Road in North Royalton. 82nd Street Theatre has existed since 2008 and performs various year-round productions.
“The reason we have a theater ministry is because we have always felt that the church should be adding value to the community,” said Abundant Life Community Church Pastor Rocky Taylor. “Most community theaters focus on adults, but we are different in that respect as we feature different age ranges. The subject matter of each show is always family friendly and the leads for each show are at different age levels so every child has the opportunity to grow and develop.”
Auditions for 82nd Street Theatre are posted throughout the year on the church’s website,, and over the years, hundreds of North Royalton children have performed on the 82nd Street Theatre stage. Taylor notes, too, that auditions are always open to anyone regardless of his/her affiliation with the church. Auditions can include singing and dancing portions, and reads from the script. Their repertoire has included everything from “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Music Man, Jr.,” “The Sound of Music,” “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “Little Women,” and many more favorites over the course of the ministry’s inception.
The local theatre has gotten quite a following over the years, and performances sell out quickly – “Mary Poppins, Jr.” being one of them. Tickets for the upcoming show went on sale in mid-February and sold out in the same day – an 82nd Street Theatre first, Taylor said.
“It’s rewarding to see kids go through our program and grow to even become professional actors,” Taylor said of the bonds performers frequently develop with theater and stage. “We always say though, ‘If you’ve never done theater before, you can walk in and do a show here.’ For many children, it’s their first experience in theater. It’s a great starter program here, but at the same time we do very well put together shows and good quality productions. For some of our actors, it’s a hobby, but some of our older kids go into college and major in theater or musical performance because of their involvement here. A lot of learning comes from here.”
For younger children, rehearsing and acting alongside more seasoned performers can be an unbeatable learning experience. The cast of “Mary Poppins, Jr.” rehearses three times a week and for three hours at a time, said Director Debbie Taylor. A graduate of North Royalton High School, Taylor participated in Show Choir, studied music in college and teaches piano.
“We’re working on choreography right now and there’s a lot of really good dance numbers in the show,” she said. “The older kids are always very welcoming to our newer performers and it’s so nice to see them working together side-by-side. Many of our performers talk about how 82nd Street Theatre is a family to them, that they love being here and the connections they’ve made, and how welcome they feel.”
Services to the community don’t stop there, however. Abundant Life Community Church also offers free summer camps for children – which, to no surprise, fill up quickly. This summer’s line-up includes segments in theater, art, soccer, basketball and a camp titled, “Game On,” which will feature a combination of crafts, music, recreation and stories. For more information, visit
Contributing Writer